Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Smoke and Mirrors on Coral Reefs: How a Tiny Fish Deceives its Prey

20.03.2015

Basel Zoologists are unveiling the colorful secrets of coral reefs: On the Australian Great Barrier Reef they discovered a coral reef fish, the dusky dottyback that flexibly adapts its coloration to mimic other fishes and in doing is able to prey on their juvenile offspring. By changing colors, the dusky dottyback also decreases its risk of being detected by predators. The study has been published in the latest issue of the renowned scientific journal Current Biology.

Tropical coral reefs like the Australian Great Barrier Reef are among the most colorful habitats in the world. However, the diversity in color still puzzles scientists: Why exactly do coral reefs host so many colorful organisms such as corals, crustaceans and fish?


2 A yellow dottyback is well camouflaged within its natural live coral habitat.

Christopher E Mirbach


Yellow dottyback (left) and the fish it imitates, an adult Ambon damselfish.

William E Feeney

The dusky dottyback (Pseudochromis fuscus), a small predatory fish that is found throughout the Indo-Pacific, occurs in many different colorations and has the peculiar ability to be able to change its body coloration. Why dottybacks vary in coloration and why they are able to change their color has long remained a secret.

An international research team led by evolutionary biologists Dr. Fabio Cortesi and Prof. Walter Salzburger from the University of Basel has now been able to explain why dottybacks adopt different colors.

So far, it had been assumed that the color variety is genetically determined, meaning that the different colored dottybacks had likely adapted to their respective habitat background or that coloration was sexually determined.

The zoologists were now able to show that dottybacks can actively change their color in a relatively short amount of time. Their goal: to mimic other fish species in their surroundings in order to prey on their juvenile offspring.

“Wolf in sheep's clothing”

Animals commonly use deception to increase access to food, reproductive opportunities or protection. However, if used too often or out of context, the impostor risks to be busted. The researchers observed that dottybacks used a particularly clever approach to reduce the threat of being found out. These fish change their color to mimic different harmless fish species in their surroundings to prevent being recognized by their prey, the offspring of the mimicked fish.

“This strategy is very similar to the classic example of the wolf in sheep's clothing. However, while the wolf may be found out eventually, dottybacks are able to change their coloration, making it difficult for their prey to learn about the threat they impose”, says first-author Dr. Fabio Cortesi. The study was conducted on the Great Barrier Reef in cooperation with colleagues from Australia, Great Britain, Canada and Sweden.

Researchers train fish

In addition, changing color also provides a second benefit to the dottybacks – it also increases their ability to hide from predators. The researchers trained bigger coral trout to strike at images of dottybacks in front of different backgrounds.

The experiment showed that coral trout struck significantly less often at the dottyback images that were color-matched to the natural background of those fish mimicked by the dottyback. “The dottybacks have developed an intricate form of mimicry that not only gives them a predatory advantage but also protects them from their own predators”, summarizes Cortesi the results.

A part of the riddle about the color richness of tropical coral reefs seems solved. Their inhabitants show an almost inconceivable variety in color and shapes, many of which serve the purpose of a warning signal or to increase protection from predators. Stonefish hide by mimicking their surroundings, sea slugs use vivid colors to warn predators about their distastefulness and cuttlefish are able to change their color in a matter of seconds to either court potential sexual partners or to hide from predators.

Original source

Fabio Cortesi, William E. Feeney, Maud C. O. Ferrari, Peter A. Waldie,
Genevieve A. C. Phillips, Eva C. McClure, Helen N. Sköld, Walter Salzburger, N.
Justin Marshall, and Karen L. Cheney
Phenotypic plasticity confers multiple fitness benefits to a mimic
Current Biology, published online 19 March 2015, doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2015.02.013

Further information

Dr. Fabio Cortesi, Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Basel, phone: +41 (0)78 761 24 41, email: fabio.cortesi@uqconnect.edu.au

Weitere Informationen:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFUQYFdZwlw - Video
http://www.salzburgerlab.org - Research group Prof. Walter Salzburger
http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822%2815%2900151-7 - Abstract

Christoph Dieffenbacher | Universität Basel

Further reports about: Fish Great Barrier Reef Mirrors Reefs Smoke coral reefs fish species predatory fish

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht World’s Largest Study on Allergic Rhinitis Reveals new Risk Genes
17.07.2018 | Helmholtz Zentrum München - Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt

nachricht Plant mothers talk to their embryos via the hormone auxin
17.07.2018 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

World’s Largest Study on Allergic Rhinitis Reveals new Risk Genes

17.07.2018 | Life Sciences

Electronic stickers to streamline large-scale 'internet of things'

17.07.2018 | Information Technology

Behavior-influencing policies are critical for mass market success of low carbon vehicles

17.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>